Today didn’t begin with yoga, despite the fact that exercise was such a productive thing for me in previous OneWeek days. Instead I opted to sleep in as long as possible, knowing that today would be a long one…
Upon arriving at CHNM headquarters, I passed around the special name badges that the crew designed for our site visit with Brett Bobley and Jen Serventi from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH). Given that the NEH funded our project, they had a strong interest in observing our process. Shortly after donning our nametags, we all moved into the conference room with the NEH folks and began explaining our tool. Boone Gorges began, explaining the functionality of the tool while showing some live (but not completed) versions of the interface. Then various members of the Dev team chimed in with their input, and Julie “Glue” Meloni continued with presenting our overall vision for the tool. The UX team lead, Kathie Gossett, explained how they applied knowledge gained from User interviews into the site workflows. Outreach team leader Effie Kapsalis reported on our plans for the launch, including social media, a PR kit, etc.
The meeting was not only a ‘reveal’ to the NEH folks, but it was the first time that I’d seen the user interface of the developing tool. As crazy as that sounds, because we’re moving forward so quickly with this process, there’s very little time for demo-ing, we’re just doing. Our meeting finished rather quickly and we all hunkered down in our various team spaces again to get to work on our task lists. During this time our team had more input from CHNM folks who helped us refine our website design. We hadn’t sketched out all the parts anywhere, so we got a whiteboard and went to work. That was hugely helpful to putting a lot of vague ideas into a more solid form, especially as we drafted the content that would target specific user audiences. Doug Knox wrote a lot of the verbiage, as did Effie. I helped out when I wasn’t busy with other tasks. I also spent some time chatting one-on-one with Jen, offering my feedback about the process of oneweek. My overall impression was that the NEH was even more interested in our team experience than in our tool (not that our tool isn’t awesome, but they were funding a summer-institute learning experience and not a specific outcome).
During lunch the NEH folks talked to the oneweek team without anyone on staff from CHNM involved. Primarily this was a time for us to offer feedback on our experience. The upshot of the discussion was that building a major DH project is entirely possible in one week, and that doing so circumvents a lot of the red-tape and endless meetings usually affiliated with development projects. I think it’s also significant to note that everyone on the team is a ‘doer’ type of person, so there’s not any time spent fussing over team members who aren’t pulling their weight. I suspect that our group’s enthusiastic get-it-done spirit would be difficult to replicate on projects with looser deadlines and institutional baggage.
The team ate both lunch and dinner together today, so we could keep even more focused on our tasks. Work stretched out long into the evening, with some of us (like me, right now), still camped out in the hotel lobby. We’re fortunate that the staff at the Mason Inn have been quite generous in letting us work and eat in the social spaces of their new facility.
A highlight of today was when Tanya Clement stopped by. We gave her our first-ever ‘pitch’ for our tool. Tanya listened carefully to Effie’s explanation and offered some good, pointed questions about the tool’s functionality and possibilities. Having her as a sounding board helped the Outreach team plan the questions we need to answer in our FAQ, as well as helping us refine how we can best describe our tool to an interested audience. Tanya seemed particularly enthusiastic when we mentioned TEI (hint, hint)…
On twitter we kept joking about today being “pants day” because it was our first time revealing what we’ve been up to to an outside audience. “Wearing pants” was a silly way for us to acknowledge how much we wanted to impress our visitors. And I’d say that we did.